Vaudeville Theatre, London – until 31 December 2017
THE OTHER OSCAR, A DELIGHT… What delight, in the midst of Dominic Dromgoole’s Oscar Wilde season at this theatre, that daytimes this month (11 pm and 2pm), it should see the stage taken over for an hour each time by this enchanting, intelligent hour honouring another side of Oscar. His gentle, heartfelt, poignant morality tales have all the storytelling power of folktale but with both Wilde’s elegant, poignant romanticism and satirical social anger.
I had perhaps expected the best-known stories – The Selfish Giant and The Happy Prince – but the Tall Stories company only mention the Happy Prince as a forgotten statue in a sad down (his gold leaf, remember, pecked off to feed the poor). There are four actor-musicians – Matt Jopling and Steve McCourt on guitar, Lauren Silver on Clarinet and Tom Jude on violin, announcing themselves as the Wilde Creatures and framing three stories in a larky sketch about Mayor Jude (in a bright red suit and opera-hat) wanting to erect a statue of himself and the others enacting stories to see whether we the audience think others are worthy: the selfish, hypocritical Miller, the learned student who despises the self-sacrificing nightingale, or the spoilt-brat Infanta. We bellow NO! each time, and the team conclude that flowers, birds and generous human kindness are better than any statue: so they up-end the set into a glorious tumbling flowering garden.
It is one of the best Christmas kids’ shows I have seen – beats their Gruffalo, actually, though everyone loves old Gruff. Despite the many jokes, it feeds into that essential childish sense of justice, outrage and morality, and doesn’t shrink from the three deaths (though I must say the children near me were trembling a bit when the lousy rotten student who only understands book-learning kicks the idealistic nightingale’s corpse aside. So was I). The music by Jon Fiber weaves a magic thread round it: it never palls. Altogether wonderful and not running for nearly long enough. If in the remains of this month you are anywhere near the Strand with your children / grandchildren / easily moved friends, do yourself a favour and drop in. And bring it back for the Easter holidays!